Anti-Israel activists tackle US tech giants

Tech workers protest Israel cooperation credit: Cristina Matuozzi Reuters
Tech workers protest Israel cooperation credit: Cristina Matuozzi Reuters

Although activist shareholder motions fail, the publicity creates an atmosphere in which companies are discouraged from cooperating with Israel. "Globes" investigates.

Attempts to boycott Israel have been directed at those who control the tech giants. The Amazon annual shareholders meeting last week rejected an anti-Israel boycott proposal put forward by a Baptist church, an activist shareholder in Amazon. The church organization called on investors to conduct a renewed discussion on the company's agreement with the Israeli government as part of the Nimbus cloud tender, which Amazon won with Google to be the largest provider of cloud services to government offices.

The American Baptist Home Mission Society accuses Israel of using Amazon technology including identification and surveillance technologies and cloud applications to manage the "apartheid system," in its words, which it claims includes surveillance, false arrests and torture.

The organization has not backed up its statements with any evidence, but makes do with accusations in order to fuel negative public relations around the company due to its relations with Israel. "The UN has already made it clear that war crimes have been committed by the IDF since October 7," the Baptist Home Mission Society insists.

The Baptist Home Mission Society demanded that the an independent committee be appointed to submit a report to the shareholders meeting on the use of Amazon's technologies by Israel as well as by the US Department of Homeland Security on managing the biometric details of illegal immigrants in the USA.

Opposing the anti-Israel was the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and its affiliate JLens, and investment consultant ISS, backed by the Amazon board, which asked the shareholders to reject the Baptist Home Mission Society proposal.

The organizations submitted a report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which rebuff the bogus anti-Israel and 'apartheid' charges, as is a call to boycott the Jewish people's legitimate right to self-determination in Israel.

The Amazon board had its own reasons for rejecting the provocative motion. First and foremost was the claim that the company has several procedures in product development followed by checking the misuse of facial recognition products, for example, and that it takes a leading role in the field of responsible use of AI in areas of government. Amazon also claims customers sign binding agreements that deviation from them could result in cessation of use of its products.

In the end, the Baptist motion against Israel was rejected, along with six other motions in other areas. 1.24 billion shareholders voted in favor of the anti-Israel proposal, 6.18 billion shareholders voted against it, while 159.6 million shareholders abstained from expressing a position.

Not a new phenomenon

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, Emeritus Prof. of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and founder and president of NGO Monitor, a policy analysis think tank which researches anti-Israel NGOs, told "Globes," "The American Baptist Home Mission Society has a long history of progressive, advanced investment policies as well as green investment, in other words that meet conditions of equality, including ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance).

"The organizations that manage the BDS movement tend to use the ESG framework to promote anti-Israel campaigns. They have done this in previous years but this year opposition to the Amazon's withdrawal proposal was significantly greater than last year, partly thanks to the preparations by the ADL and its partners."

But according to Prof. Anat Alon-Beck an expert in corporate law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, the Baptist proposal could have been prevented ahead of time before it reached the shareholders meeting. She told "Globes," "The campaign against Israel at the level of boards of directors and shareholders in giant companies is not a new one but it has reached a new peak in its scale due to the war.

"There is a way to fight hostile proposals even before they reach the shareholders' meeting, but in the case of Amazon they chose not to fight them at the early stage, and that's how we reached the debate that was held during the meeting. The proposal's sponsors knew it would be rejected, but they gained a public platform that received media coverage."

Anti-Israeli investors, for example, also submitted resolutions against Israel with chip giant Nvidia and defense manufacturer Northrop Grumman, which makes the Saar-5 corvettes for Israel. But unlike what happened with Amazon, they were not ultimately brought before the shareholders for a vote.

Management level at companies has the right to oppose the anti-Israeli proposals by applying to the SEC for approval of their exclusion. In the case of Northrop, for example, the company was able to prevent the anti-Israel proposal after proving that a substantially similar claim had been submitted several years in a row.

At Nvidia, activist shareholders, heads of the Presbyterian Church, voluntarily agreed to withdraw the proposal calling on the company to perform "customer due diligence" regarding its relations with Israel, China and Saudi Arabia, as it has already "obtained significant commitments" from the company on this issue. Additional exceptions can also be requested for micro-management considerations, if any proposal does not deal with strategic issues but with too individual and technical issues that shareholders do not have the necessary knowledge on which to express an opinion.

"Far-reaching consequences"

Another proposal against Israel was raised earlier this month at the shareholders' meeting of RTX Corp., Raytheon's defense equipment group, which supplies, among other things, the Iron Dome interceptors and missiles for fighter jets to Israel. The proposal, which also included a call to appoint an inspection committee to examine Israel's use of weapons to "implement an apartheid policy," was accepted by only about 5.5% of the corporation's shareholders. The offer was also canceled with the help of the Jlem Group which claims to have repelled 7 offers from companies such as Boeing, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin. There was also an uproar at Starbucks when the workers' union published an anti-Israel post and demanded the appointment of three board members. Starbucks reached an agreement even before the meeting of the appointment of the directors, in which the conditions of the employees will be increased in exchange for the cancellation of the appointment.

The anti-Israeli proposals, even though they failed to gain approval, affect the mood in organizations, the ADL claims in a publication on the subject. "This is an initiative that discourages companies from cooperating with Israel," says Alon-Beck. "The goal is to undermine Israel's economic growth and stability and its relations with the US. Disruptions in this model have far-reaching consequences, which extend beyond financial portfolios and threaten the private markets and investments in innovation."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on May 29, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

Tech workers protest Israel cooperation credit: Cristina Matuozzi Reuters
Tech workers protest Israel cooperation credit: Cristina Matuozzi Reuters
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